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Reports of Strangles Outbreaks Across the UK

In various recent months, increasing outbreaks of Equine Strangles have been reported in horse yards across the country. Strangles is a highly contagious disease that affects horses, while most cases are resolved without fatal consequences, the disease can be deadly in some instances.

Additionally, the effect a Strangles outbreak can have on equine businesses, such as yard owners and horse breeders, can be detrimental.


Increased R number

Research conducted by Houben et al. has allowed us to identify the rate at which Streptococcus equi – the bacterium that causes Strangles – spreads. 

It was found for the first time that the R number for Strangles was just over two - meaning every horse that is infected will infect another two horses if no preventative action is taken.

With this newfound understanding of strangles' contagion rate, we can take steps to minimize strangles' reach and protect equines from infection.


Surveillance of Equine Strangles Project

The Surveillance of Equine Strangles (SES) is a surveillance project funded by The Horse Trust and based at the Royal Veterinary College, with its laboratory network comprising nine diagnostic laboratories in the UK.

According to the SES’ results since 2021, 733 positive diagnoses of Strangles were submitted by 203 vet practices across the UK, with 122 of these diagnoses being from Sept 2022 until the present.

The SES has found from the data provided that the areas with the most infections are Devon and North Yorkshire - showing this disease is affecting horses all over the country.

The SES was created to both investigate the genetic picture of strangles and to identify potential ‘transmission events’, where the disease may have been spread. 


Keeping your horse safe

Maintaining biosecurity for your horses is a crucial step in protecting your horses from the spread of contagious illnesses. Before introducing any new additions to your stables, it's essential to isolate them until you are certain they're healthy. In addition, don't forget to keep surfaces clean by sanitising tack and equipment frequently - plus avoid letting different horses drink from each other’s water troughs. Implementing these habits now can help ensure your horses stay healthy. 


Final thoughts

It’s seemingly more important than ever for horse owners to stay vigilant about monitoring for any potential signs of Strangles; if suspected, seek immediate medical help. Together, with an awareness of preventative measures and proper treatment methods when necessary, we can work towards minimising the impact that Equine Strangles has on our communities.

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